Police Psychology: MidLife Crisis
by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
It brings up images of the salt-and-pepper-haired man riding on a Harley with a yoga instructor half his age on the back nuzzling too close to him so that it is difficult for him to drive. Or perhaps a middle-aged woman dressed in clothes she “shouldn’t be wearing” playing kissy-face in the corner of a bar with a young muscle-bound Adonis, not much older than the son she could have popped out at 22. If I could circulate a sign-up sheet for these two scenarios, it wouldn’t make it past half the room. There is something sort of fun about the midlife crisis. Why is the midlife crisis so all encompassing, and why is it so predictable?
Let’s get this out of the way first, women hit their midlife crisis a few years before men. Generally, age 38 to 42, with men it is more in their mid-forties. There was a lot of debate that thought that women don’t really have a midlife crisis, but that is not the truth. It doesn’t discriminate between the sexes. When the Botox injections start flowing like soft ice cream in Disney World on a hot Florida summer day, the testosterone inject-able isn’t far behind. Recognizing and handling the midlife crisis is tough business.
Suddenly you turn the corner. It is no longer wild partying on the weekend, the 20-somethings bar scene, and worrying about the drama of where and with whom you are sleeping that night. Life becomes about watching Disney Channel, sometimes a new set of friends with kids your child’s age, and hoping your mother can intervene with your kids long enough to give you some quiet time or a date night. Sometimes your mother’s or father’s health starts failing and you find yourself splitting time between parenthood and taking care of mom and dad. And all the while you are working to keep the lights on and the mortgage up-to-date. Life is no longer as much fun and drama, and it becomes more doing things for others. You find yourself not liking who you’ve become. Your partner starts to not have the time to appreciate you and you start to realize the two of you have different views on things like discipline. Then it smacks you in the face! Hide the flaws, pay up the gym membership, turn up the rock…and…roll, we are born to be wild, born to run, born free. We are walking into the abyss called midlife crisis.
Other people are having more fun than me. Is this what life is about – picking up other people’s crap? What happened to the alone time, and the fun, and the partying, and the being appreciated. My partner’s not as hot and sweet, funny and caring anymore. And on the internet are tons of people having more fun that care about me. You forget that people present their ideal self on the internet, not their real self. How do I avoid the rest of my life being this way? Who am I anyway? Why put my life on hold for people that don’t care about me?
So, that is when the injections start, and the motorcycle, and the dating younger, creating a more interesting life for yourself and perhaps ignoring the people around you who are your staples in your current life. Sometimes even your children. Some stats for you: Harley, the ultimate bounty for a male heading into a midlife crisis, has an average age for the sale of a motorcycle of 47-48 years old. That’s the average age, meaning half were older. Almost 50! About 20 years older than the hot hunks who advertise the bikes. Botox, Dysport and Xeomin, neurotoxins that kill nerve cells but also smooth out wrinkles, have somewhere around 8 million people injecting them in a year. And the original intent of the drug to stop people from becoming cross-eyed has been forgotten. Women are even starting to get the injections in their late 20’s. So, blown up faces, riding around with a high-risk machine between your legs and trying to stay young and viral are all part of the deal. But so is divorce and distancing yourself from the ones you care about. That is the part we don’t like to see. Midlife crisis is a joy unto itself.
How do we fix it? This is the age-old question about getting some passion back in your life. You’ll see advice like spend 15-20 hours of together time a week or to go on separate vacations to search out what you really want in life. Both are difficult when kids are in your life and you have so much activity to schedule for them, or the money is just not there for family things and private things. Or you can barely stand to be with your spouse. The fact is there is no one answer for this question. It is different for each person and each couple. Some general statements can be made though.
- Spend some extra time with your spouse when you both can be yourselves, without kids or family. Relaxed time with very little to do. Try to rediscover what attraction you still have.
- Make your family attend to each other. Electronics have to be cut short. Play more games of the board or card variety. Play something together on TV, or watch TV, instead of games that the child goes at it solo. Make your relationships give you pleasure, not just pleasure for your kid or your spouse.
- Set up many situations where you are laughing. The therapeutic value of laughter is high, but often overlooked. Watch old Three Stooges or Gilligan’s Island or a few new things that make the family laugh together. Laughing together creates memories that are locked in your brain. Make some memories happen.
- This is the big one: stop judging yourself, your spouse and your job. Acceptance is huge in finding yourself. You are here now make it work. If you want to move on after a while, the fact you made your current situation work will help you in future situations. We have this false belief that if we change the situation, we change our life and most times that is not true. If you can, make the current situation work, and then you can make a rational decision as to whether you need to move on. Most people, if they don’t fix the situation they are in, end up in the same spot a few months or years later. This is an area where you might need a little help.
- Finally simplify! My ongoing theme which is why I wrote a bestselling book Keeping It Simple in 1995, my midlife crisis. ( I did get a motorcycle too then.) I will send a digital copy to anyone who asks. Make your life simpler. Simplify your kids’ lives. Make your relationships simpler. When it is simpler you can follow your dreams and make good things happen. Make life simpler.
Midlife crisis is hard to get through, but people and marriages get through it. It takes a little diligence and commitment, but it can be a great part of life. Embrace it and move forward.
Site Administrator: Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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